Theatre | Wind in the Willows

4/5 Stars

Wind in the Willows at West Yorkshire Playhouse
Mole, (Joe Alessi), Toad (Paul Kemp) and Ratty (Jack Lord) in action

This classic production sees a fresh and lively rework under the direction of West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Ian Brown, following the adventures of four distinctive animal characters in an adventure perfect for the festive season.

The magic begins right from the start as bright eyed Mole emerges from the elaborate woodland apparatus which dominates the stage. This set –accredited to the talents of designer Colin Richmond encompasses the numerous settings, from the fresh spring meadows where trumpet playing rabbits frolic, to the sinister folds of the wild woods, home to the south-end gangster style stoats and weasels. The cast are an impressive array of talents, the uncanny grandiloquence of Paul Kemp’s Toad stands out in particular. His balance of ostentation and lovable naivety makes for a truly entertaining performance. The professionalism of the younger company is equally as impressive, having been selected from all across Yorkshire; they too display a brilliant animal physicality, perfecting twitches learnt in ‘Movement Workshops’ with Movement Director Lucy Hind.

 the quirky styling evokes fantastically a nostalgia for British eclecticism

The musical element of the production adds a sense of enchantment to the stage and really exudes a festive, pantomime mood while the show runs over the entire Christmas period. Alongside a polished and entertaining dramatic performance, another notable element of the production was the costume design, a talent again owed to Colin Richmond. Capturing a world where ‘humans and animals co-exist’, the character’s animalistic side is subtly depicted within the costume and not pinned to one particular era; the quirky styling evokes fantastically a nostalgia for British eclecticism. This homage to England is furthered by the diverse range of accents used to represent the various animals; Yorkshire rabbits, cockney weasels and a favourite of the audience, Brummie horse Albert. The commitment and multi-faceted talent displayed by the whole cast completes this eccentric and heart warming tale that you can’t help but enjoy.

Emma Chaplin

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